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Fast-digitalizing Vapo upskilled their staff through Business Technology Academy

Vapo promotes clean, water-efficient local food production; the supply of local fuels; heat, power and steam solutions; and develops new products to clean up environmental pollution. Vapo is becoming an increasingly technology-driven organisation, which means that its IT management needs to stay a step ahead. That’s why Vapo and Sofigate joined forces to launch a competence development programme to improve the Information and Communication Technology skills of Vapo’s staff, and to ensure that the IT function was integrating effectively with the rest of the company.

New strategy calls for new IT skills

Traditionally, Vapo has been known for its promotion of peat as an energy source. But as it continues transitioning towards low-carbon emission solutions, the company is developing new, more energy-efficient and sustainable alternatives.

In 2018, Vapo overhauled its strategy and organisational structure. Previously a holding company, its operations were consolidated under a single group. It also established an IT unit responsible for the company’s IT management. These changes made it necessary to upskill staff to ensure that they were prepared for the new demands of their jobs.

“Through the reorganisation, we realised that IT operations are increasingly at the centre of all aspects of our company. Vapo’s transformation strategy relies heavily on improved IT services. Customers and markets are also always looking for better, cost-effective and innovative digital services,” says Jukka Holm, Chief Information Officer at Vapo.

In 2016, Vapo conducted an internal IT governance maturity analysis that emphasised the importance of IT competence development. The analysis found that the rest of the company felt little benefit from IT, highlighting the importance of developing competence internally.

ICT JOE programme to increase skills

In order to make significant strides in its IT management, Vapo shifted its focus from recruiting professionals with the right skills to training existing staff. In the spring of 2018, Vapo launched its Journey to Excellence Information and Communication Technology management programme.

The Sofigate Business Technology Academy’s change programme set out to increase Vapo’s IT unit’s expertise and to ensure that IT was well-positioned to support a changing Vapo. The programme also sought to clarify the management models, processes, roles, and responsibilities of the Vapo Group’s IT unit and to create a centralised “ICT 3D” management model (Demand, Development, Delivery model).

“It was important for us that the programme helped the rest of the company and the IT unit to understand one another better, because Vapo’s business is becoming increasingly technology-driven,” says Holm.

The two-year programme included six two-day coaching sessions. In addition, the BT Academy boosted participants’ skills between coaching sessions, with coaches reviewing and, when necessary, workshopping individual goals. After each training day, participants were asked to reflect on their progress and fill out a self-assessment form.

It was important for Vapo that everyone be able to participate in the development of the IT function. In addition to Vapo’s own IT experts, the programme included development staff from its business side, as well as key individuals from partner organisations. In all, there were around 30 participants.

“We have been extremely pleased with the ICT JOE programme. In Finland, Sofigate is one of the best and only organisations that provides comprehensive IT governance development and that can coach IT management development,”says Holm.

It is a big hit within Vapo

The two-year development programme will end in the spring of 2020. The increased level of staff competence is already noticeable.

As a result of the programme, Vapo now has coherent IT management, common processes and practices, as well as actionable goals.

“We redid the maturity analysis and the business team now reports that it benefits greatly from the IT unit. The situation, therefore, has turned around entirely. As a team, we are now ready to bring about the transformation that the company needs, ” says Holm.

The knowledge base and skills of Vapo staff have grown, and new operating methods are now familiar throughout the organisation. In addition to Finland, employees from Estonia, Sweden, and the Netherlands have participated in the programme. And as an added bonus, partner organisations’ understanding of Vapo’s operations has improved vastly.

“From the outset, Vapo made employees central to the change, and they were given more responsibility. Employees are generally more committed when their professional development is being invested in and they are given the opportunity to highlight their own skills. Vapo dared to bring ecosystem thinking into play. It is rare for organisations to also involve their external partners in development, and Vapo definitely benefited from it, ”says Liisa Korkiakoski, who is in charge of coaching at the BT Academy at Sofigate.

“In Finland, Sofigate is one of the best and only organisations that provides comprehensive IT governance development and that can coach IT management development.”

Jukka Holm
CIO, Vapo

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